09/08/18 Euthanasia and mental ill health

****mentions suicidal ideation***

I read this article today,

‘The troubled 29-year-old helped to die by Dutch doctors’

with a mixture of feelings from hollow sadness, to anger, to frustration, finally settling down on, good God, that could have been me.

It’s easy to slip into the ‘Parity of Esteem’ argument – where we can say, ‘If Euthenasia is seen as a viable option for people with an intolerable/ terminal physical condition, then surely the same choice should be given to folk with mental health problems.’

Or something very similar.

I can only speak from my personal experience here – but I don’t think our society is anywhere near ready for the euthanasia of me or any of my peers.

Our society – sadly – is both discriminating and stigmatising.

If we could look at a specific mental health problem in a vacuum away from this, then I think it would be worth consideration.

However, we are told, almost on a daily basis, that we are a burden on society.

We’re benefit scroungers – living off society – habitually drinking and smoking with our flat screen TV’s and mobile phones and our hordes of children…

To amplify this 10 fold, our welfare system has been made so laughingly impossible for applicants with mental health problems that the underclaiming of benefits is a much bigger problem than fraud.

The NHS describes us as a disease burden. But no, we shouldn’t take offence, that’s a technical term to describe the cost our maladies might have on society.

This feeling of being a burden is perpetuated in the media – through TV shows and news stories – so much so, that when someone develops a mental health problem we seldom consider the environment that caused, grew and cultured that problem.

Very quickly the person and not the cause becomes the problem.

That’s galvanised when many of us are told we’re not engaging with services. Services that are often set up to ensure the wellbeing of the organisation and not the person…

And yet…the shortcomings in the services become our problem. We can either be ‘too mad’ or ‘not mad enough’ to get access to the help we need.

Wild, eh?

We have housing providers that can legitimately say, ‘No benefits’ as they pass the responsibility onto the buy to let mortgage lenders who can also say ‘No’ to people on benefits.

We know that disability hate crime is on the increase – and yet the belief that folk with mental health problems are a danger to society dominates when the reverse is true.

Imagine experiencing suicidal ideation in this kind of environment?

I have, and I still do. It’s more easily managed now that I know to treat it like the imposter it is. For me it’s a defence mechanism – a pretty desperate one that allows me to consider there’s an escape from the racket in my head.

If I’d been offered euthanasia when I was 29, I can’t honestly say what I would have done. Those intense, terrifying feelings combined with the steady drip feed of how I, and people like me were a burden would have made it a very tempting option.

My life’s great – except for that third of the time where I dissociate. I’ve a horrible feeling I would have missed out on that had the option to take my life with medical assistance had presented itself to me.

I don’t pretend to have the answers here, but without getting our society in order, I really believe we can’t begin to consider euthanasia for people with mental health problems.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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04/08/18 Borderline (Bastard) Personality Disorder

So, you’ve survived your Hellish childhood. You’ve been abused either sexually or physically – sometimes both.

You may have experienced neglect, poverty, bereavement…

You may have found yourself on the periphery of your world – your family – your fellow students – often your friends – your work colleagues…

You may be fortunate enough to have negotiated these rocky waters unscathed. Alternatively, you may have developed any or all of a cluster of symptoms that serve to make your days … fucking challenging.

Your reward for all this?

A label – a destructive diagnosis laced with prejudice…

Borderline Personality Disorder.

Go on, try it on for size.

Yes, I know, it sounds pretty meaningless, doesn’t it?

Borderline of what?

Personality Disorder??

Where’s the acknowledgement of all the shit and trauma you’ve gone through?

Well, in the ‘60’s, doctor whoever wotsisname found there were patients who didn’t fit neatly under either psychosis.

or neurosis

deciding that there was a group of folk – my people – who hovered somewhere in between.

To my mind, the creator of this label went to the same school of wilful dingbats as those who sought to call elephants ‘pachyderms’.

For those of you who aren’t up to date with your Latin, ‘pachy’ means ‘thick’, ‘derm’ means ‘skin’.

If only they’d taken a couple of steps backwards, they’d have seen the elephant (in the room) in its full glory.

But no…instead we’re left with an umbrella term for a cluster of symptoms that carry with them seemingly endless judgement from many of the professionals, friends and family charged with our care.

‘Attention seeking’

‘Manipulative’

‘Dishonest’

‘Violent’

In recent times, it would appear there has been a push to destigmatise the condition by the folk who come up with the names for mental maladies…

In the U.K., we’re now referred to as people with ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’

That’s better! That’s so much less judgemental, isn’t it?

Hey, wait a minute! ‘Emotionally unstable!?’ I thought it was the ‘Personality Disorder’ bit that was brimming with stigma?

So, imagine going through much of the shitstorm that was your early life, only to be given this bastard diagnosis that breeds prejudice.

A diagnosis that doesn’t go any way to acknowledge what happened to you.

Everyone I know who’s ‘attracted the label’ of borderline personality disorder has either suffered abuse, neglect and/ or a steady drip feed of exclusion in their early lives.

Everyone.

Take a step back. What are we dealing with here?

We are more than a cluster of symptoms. We are people who’ve experienced trauma while we were growing up – where we developed any number of emotional defence mechanisms to see us through. Defence mechanisms that served us well at the time of the trauma, but now…? Well, not so much.

Borderline Personality Disorder is a result of trauma.

I’d like to suggest it was a kind of post traumatic stress condition – but that doesn’t tell the full story.

Paradoxically, receiving that label, a diagnosis we’d hope would be the gateway to the effective treatment of this bastard condition, has instead led to more trauma, through the institutional prejudice inherent in a system that asks ‘What’s wrong with you?’ instead of ‘What happened to you?’

That way, the person with the label becomes the problem. Not what happened to them. Not the way they’re treated by society. Not the shortcomings in services…

It’s you.

You’re the problem.

Imagine that?

You’ve gone through all that shit. You’re faced with health and social care services who, at the drop of a hat, will declare you’re failing to engage with services.

The conclusion? The services aren’t shit. You are.

And then folk have the audacity to tell us not to fall foul of ‘Self Stigma’.

I mean, just because everyone else sees you as shit, doesn’t mean you should join in.

This needs to be addressed at every level, root, stem and branch. The whole systemic treatment of folk like me is flawed.

We could try ‘Post traumatic stress disorder’ ?

It’s not that simple though, is it?

We could whack the word ‘complex’ at the beginning…?

Closer…but no cigar.

‘Post’ suggests the trauma is a thing of the past.

Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to look further than that. Because of the way we’re still treated across society – at home, at school, in college, university…at work, or by the welfare system…

This is trauma – nothing less.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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Walk a Mile, Tales of a Wandering Loon review

Here’s a great review on Walk a Mile: Tales of a Wandering Loon

Outdoor prescription and me

It’s funny how trails can lead to things on the internet. As a service user of Mental Health services I have found the Masked AMHP blog to be helpful in answering some of the questions or concerns I’ve had about my care, it’s also a useful insight into Mental Health provision in the UK and provides answers or thoughts into how legislation is applied. I recently discovered that the blog has a facebook group which I also followed. A member of the group recently shared that they’d had a book published detailing their diagnosis and subsequent treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (NB I will refer to it as BPD for the rest of this review). The book appealed for me for many reasons which I will detail later in this review, what also appealed to me was some of the profits go to the Shaw Mind Foundation. Its funny…

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#42Days A #HungerStrike in protest against #UniversalCredit #SevereDisabilityPremium

One of the great claims of the supporters of Universal Credit at it was rolled out around the country, was that it would target those in greatest need…

Well…NewsFlash…it has…but it may not come as a great surprise to you, it hasn’t been in a good way.

Although I’ve mentioned this in passing – I’ve been particularly focused on the unacceptable 42, come February 35 day delay between the application for Universal Credit and receiving any money – people with the most severe disabilities have borne the brunt of the most massive cuts of austerity.

We hear that Universal Credit is crunching 6 benefits into one – we’re told that this simplified the system.

In that process, a little known benefit, Severe Disability Allowance, has simply vanished.

This means that the folk who were previously defined as having the most severe disabilities in our society have had £62.45 a week cut from their income – that’s £124.90 for a couple.

That works out at a cut of £3247.40 a year for individuals and £6494.80 for couples.

We’re not all in this together

Tragically, this is the tip of a particularly pernicious iceberg.

People who are reliant on benefits have also been hit with the ‘spare room subsidy’ – the bedroom tax – where they lose 14% of their housing benefit for 1 empty room in their home and 25% for 2 or more.

The average rent in the UK in 2017 was £908 per month – so that’s a tax of our poorest people of around £2724 a year.

This is when there are no alternatives available – so this is has been little more than a straight cut in their income. With no meaningful choice, peole have been forced to pay the top up directly from their disability benefits.

And there’s more..

There’s been a further shift in disability benefits…disability living allowance has been transformed into the new…improved…personal independence payment (PIP)…

When I say new and improved, I mean the government have taken this opportunity to lop more money from people’s incomes.

Folk with mental health problems who’ve applied for, or who’ve been transferred over to the new benefit have found it rather physical – centric.

Thousands of people with mental health problems have lost the mobility component of their disability benefit, because there’s nowhere to shoehorn their needs into the astonishingly restrictive forms.

This means that many folk in this group have lost a further £22.00, possibly £58.00 per week.

That’s a further cut of between £1,144 and £3,016 a year – purely because of a failing in the assessment process.

Add to that the current freeze in benefits, which is basically a further 4% cut in people’s incomes…

I’m so tempted to dive into the cuts into services – local and national – here, but this is clearly enough.

The next time you hear a politician or representative of the department of work and pensions declaring that we’re targeting our most disabled people in our benefits system, ask for a bit of clarification. I’m fairly sure they don’t want you to know that we’ve cut the incomes of thousands of people with disabilities and/ or mental health problems by up to £8987.40 a year.

In other news…I started eating again today…puréed pears…but after going through the above financial shenanigans, it feels like that’s paling into insignificance..

Walk a Mile

Chris

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#42Days A #HungerStrike in protest against #UniversalCredit Day 42

This is it folks…this is the big one…the last day of the hunger strike.

You know all the whys and wherefores behind it – and together we’ve made a bit of a noise – and I can’t thank you enough for that.

I’d like to ask a bit more from you all.

Remember – this is not about me!

It’s about the shitstorm that is being meted out on our most vulnerable people at their most vulnerable.

I’d like you all to contact your MP in whichever way you find most comfortable, and tell them that…

1) The 42 day wait between application and delivery of Universal Credit was never acceptable

2) Reducing that time by 7 days to 35 days is a derisory reduction. 35 days with no money is still unacceptable.

3) The convoluted system of crisis and/ or advanced payments aren’t fit for purpose – they just mean vulnerable people have to jump through more hoops – and bear in mind they have to repay that money from any future Universal credit they get.

4) The maximum time people must wait is 2 weeks.

5) The punitive system of benefit sanctioning must stop. It’s punishment without due legal process – and it has no place in a civilised society.

6) People with mental health problems are hugely over represented in this Draconian system – where DWP representatives can stop a person’s benefits for anything between 3 days and 3 years – for the heinous crimes of not filling out a form correctly or missing a meeting.

Instead of finding out what happened to the applicants, DWP staff sanction our fellow citizens when they’re at their most vulnerable.

7) Tell them it’s time to break the tired old rhetoric around people who claim benefits. They’re not ‘workless’, lazy, or in need of ‘tough love’

These people aren’t just like us – they are us.

We all have to work together to start breaking down that prejudice today.

8) Finally, for Universal Credit to work, it must come from a place of love and compassion – not one of suspicion. Remind them that only 0.7% of disability benefits are claimed fraudulently – our biggest problem is that roughly £2 Billion in benefits remain unclaimed.

Let’s make our welfare system into a real safety net – a service that we can be assured is there at our times of need and one that we can all have real pride in.

Remember, we live in a democracy – and together, we can make a difference.

Go on then! What are you waiting for?

Walk a Mile

Chris

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#42Days A #HungerStrke in protest against #UniversalCredit Day 37. I’m not afraid to say it, I’m a bit fucked.

This isn’t, nor has it ever been, about me. All I’ve ever wanted to do with this hunger strike is make a noise – to raise awareness of the terrible plight of our fellow citizens who find themselves plummeting into the maelstrom of debt caused by Universal Credit – the safety net that isn’t.

When I started out with this, applicants for Universal Credit were expected to wait 42 days for any money to come through.

Imagine…

These folk aren’t just like you and me – they ARE you and me. People who’ve been hit by some devastating event – a physical health problem – a mental health problem – sometimes both – folk who lose their job due to bad luck – find themselves floundering in a world of no services and no money.

A recent study by the British Medical Journal, you know, that loony left peddler of fake news, tells us that 120 thousand people have died prematurely in the UK since the start of austerity in 2010.

In a recent study by Mind, we’re told that 300 thousand people lost their jobs due to mental ill health last year – that’s a lot of people believing they’d signed up to a covenant with the government to ensure their ongoing wellbeing, only to watch the safety net being pulled away just when they need it.

Shelter tell us that there are now over 300 thousand homeless people in the UK – that’s the population of Newcastle!

Have we taken to the streets? Have we written to our MP’s in righteous indignation? Have we done anything to cry out for our most vulnerable at their most vulnerable?

We’ve heard that Universal Credit, instead of easing people through these difficult times, is actually compounding these difficulties.

We’ve had debates in parliament challenging the rollout of Universal Credit, where the government has lost horribly – and yet they continue to march inexorably on.

Yes, you’re absolutely right, in the recent budget, Philip Hammond made some concessions.

He told us that the 42 day wait would be reduced to 35 days and that people in greatest need would have access to money earlier. We’re told there are advance payments and/ or crisis payments (damned if I know what the difference is between the two) if people are found to be in sufficient need.

The thing is, these changes aren’t being fully implemented until spring next year.

In the meantime, people who are applying for Universal Credit TODAY who won’t get any money until the new year.

Because this system was rolled out with malicious policies built in, including a Draconian structure of sanctioning where folk can have their money stopped for anything between 3 days and 3 years for such heinous crimes as failing to attend a meeting or filling a form out incorrectly, folk are falling into spirals of debt from which they’ll never recover.

On Tuesday at the last parliamentary debate on Universal Credit, Frank Field had this story of devastation to tell the commons – that resulted in conservative MP, Heidi Allen openly weeping.

And still it continues.

People who’ve been in touch with me during the hunger strike tell me that they haven’t been informed about crisis payments – or they’ve been told that they can only claim 3 payments (which are half the amount of what they’d expect to receive when their Universal Credit comes through) over the 6 week (5 weeks in Spring next year) period.

When they’ve asked representatives at the department of work and pensions what they’re supposed to do for food, they’ve been told to go to food banks. And, let’s remember, folk can only get support from food banks 3 times a year.

Before this ridiculous system came into effect, we were told that some people were having to choose between heating and eating. Today, here in the UK, there are people who can afford to do neither.

I’ve been on hunger strike for just over 5 weeks, and I’m fucked. It’s effecting my sleep – I wake up because I’m hungry – I’m tired a lot of the time – and I feel the cold – hypothermia is a real threat.

I appreciate I’m privileged – I know this is coming to an end for me next Tuesday – I know I’ll be gently reintroducing myself to food on Wednesday.

I have heating. I can have baths to keep my core temperature up.

People applying for Universal Credit are haunted, crippled by the uncertainty surrounding the benefit – we’re told that over a quarter of applicants are waiting longer than 42 days…

I don’t have dependents relying on my Universal Credit coming through.

And still we do nothing.

What of the people who’ve suffered financially during phase one of this failing policy – no, sorry, it’s not failing, it’s doing exactly what it was set up to do.

Will they be compensated? Will the government pay off the eye wateringly high interest loans were the only option for many?

I can’t stress this enough. We live in a democracy – we can speak to our representatives – our local councillors – our MP’s – they’re infinitely contactable – by phone, email, letter or at their regular surgeries.

This is an apolitical issue. It’s a humanitarian crisis of our own making. We can change this.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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#42Days A #HungerStrke in protest against #UniversalCredit Day 28. Where is the Love?

“Don’t judge a man (person) until you’ve walked two moons in his (their) moccasins”

Hmmm…this is a tricky one. We know that folk who’ve been slapped in the face with unemployment, often with the added assaults of physical and/ or mental health problems, have to deal with the added indignity of prejudice and discrimination to their plight.

These same people know what the world thinks of them, through the deluge of hateful rhetoric from the mainstream media. They’re ‘Skivers’ who suffer from generational ‘worklessness’ a terrible condition handed on through generations.

We watch the funny people, with their flat screen TV’s, iPhones and designer clothes on zoo TV, as they smoke, drink and gamble their way through life.

Although we know this isn’t the truth, and that the media have strived to deliver this bizarre caricature…

But it sticks, doesn’t it?

Today though, I’m not interested in this particular flavour of nonsense…

No, I’m keen to lift the curtain on the creators and purveyors of this Draconian system.

What goes on in the Minds of the people behind Universal Credit?

I’m inclined to start with Nazi Germany, where the third Reich made it easy for their soldiers to mete out horrific atrocities against the Jews by ‘othering’ the objects of their hate, calling them Untermenschen – sub-human.

Or the Hutus in Rwanda, who slaughtered millions of their country folk, mainly Tutsis, referring to them as ‘Cockroaches’

If we look at the Milgram Experiment we know that a large percentage of folk, when faced with perceived authority figures, have a tendency to do as they’re told – to conform – often to the point where they believe they’ve killed someone.

We’ve just heard from the BMJ – the British Medical Journal – an esteemed publication – that an estimated 120 thousand people in the UK have died prematurely because of austerity.

What must be going on in the Minds of the people behind these policies? What pressures/ beliefs/ cultural norms are they reacting to, to somehow make this ok?

Already we’ve heard responses to the BMJ paper – where folk dismiss the findings, blandly stating that correlation does not mean causation.

But, fuck, it’s tempting to draw conclusions, isn’t it?

How did they arrive at the belief that the tough love stick is required to control the unemployed masses, where the already wealthy require the loving caress of even more money to keep them sweet?

Is it as simple as ‘These wealthy folk are just like me’ ? and, ‘These poor folk are in poverty because of their own fecklessness’?

If that’s the case, where do these beliefs come from and, more to the point, how are they propagated?

Meanwhile, down at the coal face, we have the hundreds of Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) staff who are implementing these austere policies – the 42 day wait between the application for Universal Credit and the delivery of any money.

What kind of individual deliberately omits to tell folk about the, granted measly, crisis loans that do little to alleviate the financial pain.

What must be going on in the mind of the staff who strike claimants with benefit sanctions – where people have their money stopped for anything between 3 days and 3 years?

Surely they must know the untold hardship they’re causing by cutting off a person’s only access to money.

We hear that staff are given bonuses for delivering these sanctions…but what would YOU do in these circumstances? Would the temptation of a juicy bonus get you to financially fuck up someone’s life?

Would it?

What if you were immersed in a culture where benefit applicants were seen as somehow less than you? Somehow different…

The reason I ask all these questions is because I really don’t have a fucking clue.

I know I’ve flogged this relentlessly, but all, not some, not most, ALL the people I met on my way around the edge of our lovely island, were lovely, fabulous, generous and hospitable – trusting and trustworthy…

These were people of all political persuasions and walks of life.

Conclusion – people are fabulous.

So what in the name of cracky pants leads to the punitive, hateful behaviours by the policy makers and the individuals delivering these ill thought through policies?

It would be so easy for us to ‘other’ them…label them as psychopaths…sycophants…powercrazed…

Given the chance, would you deliver a retaliatory system on them? A, ‘That’ll teach the bastards’ policy that would make them suffer?

Look, I didn’t say I had the answers. If you want to look at another experiment that demonstrates the inhumanity of humans, take a look at the Zimbardo mock prison debacle…

Walk a Mile

Chris

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